Fresh off Winter Classic, Rangers host 'Hawks
NEW YORK -- A pair of teams with decidedly different recent road-trip experiences will square off Wednesday night, when the New York Rangers host the Chicago Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers are officially returning home after completing a two-game "road" trip Monday, when they squandered a two-goal first-period lead before recovering to beat the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, in overtime in the Winter Classic at Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets. The Sabres were the designated home team in the game.
The Blackhawks played the penultimate game of their six-game, cross-continental road trip Sunday, when they came back from a three-goal deficit to force overtime before falling to the host Calgary Flames, 4-3.
The Rangers, who began their road trip with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, improved to 4-0-0 in outdoor games with Monday's win.
"We also discussed it in the room that we're not going to enjoy this and look back and (think) it's a great memory unless you win the game," said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has been in net for all four outdoor victories. "I just thought we played pretty good. We had a great start and then a couple of penalties that put us on our heels a little bit."
The victory allowed the Rangers (21-13-5) to jump into a tie for third place in the Metropolitan Division with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The two teams are four points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes, who are ninth in the Eastern Conference. The sturdy playoff position represents the culmination of several months of climbing by New York, which opened the season by losing seven of its first eight games (1-5-2).
The exhaustive road trip has further imperiled the playoff hopes of the Blackhawks (18-14-6), who are 1-3-1 on a journey that began Dec. 21 and included earlier games against the Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers. Chicago entered Tuesday two points behind the Anaheim Ducks in the race for the Western Conference's final wild-card spot.
The game against the Rangers finally concludes the jaunt for the Blackhawks, who will have traveled more than 8,000 miles by the time they arrive home early Thursday morning.
At least the Blackhawks found a goalie during their trek. Jeff Glass, a 32-year-old rookie, solidified himself as Chicago's fill-in for the injured Corey Crawford by stopping 77 of the 84 shots he faced against the Oilers on Friday -- when Glass won his NHL debut in Chicago's 4-3 overtime victory -- and the Flames on Sunday.
Glass' second NHL game came in his hometown, a mere 13-plus years after the Ottawa Senators selected him in the third round of the 2004 draft.
"Would have liked to win it, obviously," Glass told reporters following Sunday's game. "But it'll be one I'll remember -- probably not so fondly right now, but somewhere down the road, I'll look back and appreciate it."
Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday that Glass will draw a third straight start on Wednesday. Lundqvist will likely start for the Rangers. He has started eight of the last nine games for New York.
Updated January 3, 2018